The Turing Text

Alan Turing turns 100 on 23 June 2012. To mark the event, the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee is coordinating the Alan Turing Year, a programme of events around the world honouring Turing’s life and achievements.

Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist who played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer and in the concept of artificial intelligence.

Among other things, Turing was responsible for:

  • The Turing Machine (1936), a hypothetical computing machine that helped describe the limits of mechanical computation.
  • The Turing Test (1950), an attempt to define a standard by which a machine could be judged as intelligent – the idea being that a “thinking” computer would be able to converse with a human being without revealing its non-human nature.
  • Techniques for breaking German Enigma ciphers at the top-secret Bletchley Park project during World War 2. One of his successes was the “bombe”, an electromechanical device for working out settings for the Enigma machine. For his work, Turing was awarded the OBE in 1945.
  • One of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE.
  • The LU decomposition method (1948) for solving matrix equations.
  • One ground-breaking paper on mathematical biology, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis”, which investigated the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape.

Turing’s career and life were blighted by a criminal conviction for indecency in 1952, which followed the investigation of his sexual relationship with another man. Says Wikipedia:

“Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. He died in 1954, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined it was suicide; his mother and some others believed his death was accidental. On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Turing was treated after the war.”

And so to today’s clerihew (and the headline to this message):

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